Synthetic biology in UK gets £5.5m boost  


A UK centre for synthetic biology has received £5.5 million in funding so it can support start-ups and SMEs in the sector. 

The UK’s National Centre for the Industrial Translation of Synthetic Biology, SynbiCITE, will use the funding to support businesses within the sector and to help strengthen the emerging UK bioeconomy. The centre was established in 2013 using funding from the UK Research & Innovation and has since provided synthetic biology start-ups and SMEs from across the UK with expertise, technical facilities, and business training. To date, the centre has helped 27 companies achieve a combined market capitalisation of £790 million.  

Now, using the funding, SynbiCITE will extend its services to start-ups and emerging SMEs working within the synthetic biology sector.  

Synthetic biology is an emerging field of science that combines methodologies from engineering and biology to design or re-design biological systems to produce useful and sustainable new products. Synthetic DNA is currently being used within life sciences to develop drugs and to better understand the toxic effects drugs can have within the body.  


SynbiCITE’s facilities include advanced equipment for tasks such as DNA analysis, which enables companies to access the workflows they need to develop proofs of concept that allow them to subsequently build the technical capacities they need in-house. 

The centre offers training courses to help synthetic biology entrepreneurs who are looking to gain the the commercial skills they need to succeed in the biotechnology sector. 

Official comments 

Professor Mary Ryan, Imperial’s Vice Provost for Research and Enterprise, said: “Synthetic biology has the potential to transform not one sector but several, and address urgent societal challenges in health, nutrition and sustainability. The UK has a leading position in the fundamental science, and the sector is growing thanks to support from initiatives like SynbiCITE. It is critical that the support for fledgling startups continues and I am delighted that SynbiCITE has received this backing from SynBioVen.” 

Professor Paul Freemont, co-Director of SynbiCITE, added: “Over the last few years, synthetic biology has accelerated the rapid growth of a new generation of biotechnology companies focusing on diverse applications. This rapid growth is dependent on a pipeline of new and innovative startups with blue-sky ideas and exciting applications. This investment now allows SynbiCITE to continue to establish and support this pipeline such that the UK continues to become a global centre for synthetic biology innovation.” 

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